Background: Clinicians have very limited options to improve fracture repair. Therefore, it is critical to develop a new clinically available therapeutic option to assist fracture repair biologically. We previously reported that the topical cutaneous application of carbon dioxide (CO2) via a CO2 absorption-enhancing hydrogel accelerates fracture repair in rats by increasing blood flow and angiogenesis and promoting endochondral ossification. The aim of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of CO2 therapy in patients with fractures.
Methods: Patients with fractures of the femur and tibia were prospectively enrolled into this study with ethical approval and informed consent. The CO2 absorption-enhancing hydrogel was applied to the fractured lower limbs of patients, and then 100% CO2 was administered daily into a sealed space for 20 min over 4 weeks postoperatively. Safety was assessed based on vital signs, blood parameters, adverse events, and arterial and expired gas analyses. As the efficacy outcome, blood flow at the level of the fracture site and at a site 5 cm from the fracture in the affected limb was measured using a laser Doppler blood flow meter.
Results: Nineteen patients were subjected to complete analysis. No adverse events were observed. Arterial and expired gas analyses revealed no adverse systemic effects including hypercapnia. The mean ratio of blood flow 20 min after CO2 therapy compared with the pre-treatment level increased by approximately 2-fold in a time-dependent manner.
Conclusions: The findings of the present study revealed that CO2 therapy is safe to apply to human patients and that it can enhance blood flow in the fractured limbs.